The streak ends: O's lose two today to St. Louis and get swept at Busch Stadium

ST. LOUIS – It was just a series when a lot went wrong for the Orioles. And for the first time in over two years, they have been swept three straight in the regular season.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who entered this series with a 20-26 record, did the job today, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the Orioles 5-4 and complete the sweep at Busch Stadium.

Something even went wrong as the O's tried to rally in the ninth against reliever Ryan Fernandez. Austin Hays singled and went to third on pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins' single. Then pinch hitter Kyle Stowers lined one deep to right and Lars Nootbaar made a great catch. Hays scored from third but the Cards doubled Mullins off first base. No doubt he wanted to steam home with the tying run, but the ball was caught.

"I thought it was gone off the bat," Hays said of Stowers blast, adding that Mullins made what looked like a good decision in taking off on contact. "He's got a good chance to score on that ball if it gets down."

The Birds also contributed to their demise by making two errors as St. Louis scored three in the sixth to get the lead.

The Orioles offense finally showed up again, at least enough to get a 3-0 lead in the third inning.

But there was also some in-game concern about lefty John Means. Means did not return after a rain delay of one hour and 25 minutes before the last of the fourth, but Albert Suárez was warming up in the O's fourth before the rains hit, and Means' velocity was down today, despite his three scoreless innings on 51 pitches.

Means, who went 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his first three starts of the year, gave up a two-out single in the first and issued walks in the second and third innings.

Broadcasters Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald noted on the MASN telecast that his velocity was down, and he was shaking his arm at times today. His season average for his fastball was 90.9 mph before this game, but it was 88.9 today, with a top pitch speed of 90.1 mph. Means got just two misses out of 22 Cardinals swings.

"He's got some elbow discomfort," manager Brandon Hyde said after the game, adding that he was ready to yank Means whether the game would be delayed or not. "He was going to come out anyway."

Anything injury-related would be concerning with Means. He had Tommy John surgery in April 2022 and missed the 2023 playoffs last October due to elbow soreness. His season debut this year did not come until May 4, after he made six minor league rehab appearances.

The Orioles' streak of not being swept in the regular season finally ends here today at 106 series. That was the third longest streak in major league history. The last time the Orioles were swept was May 13-15, 2022 at Detroit.

The Birds are now 29-18 and are 3-6 in their last nine games after losing the completion of last night’s suspended game 3-1 on Nolan Gorman’s tiebreaking two-run homer in the last of the sixth after play resumed today.

Sometimes a struggling offense can use some help, and today the O’s got some in the top of the third.

Through the first 20 innings of this series they had scored four runs, going 7-for-68 (.103) with 16 strikeouts. Then the Cards opened the door for them in the third inning, and the Orioles kicked it in to the tune of three runs,. It was also their first lead this series.

Third baseman Nolan Arenado could not cleanly field a hard-hit ball by Ramón Urías leading off the inning that went for an infield hit. Then James McCann hit one his way that had the look of a double-play ball. But Arenado booted that one and the O’s had a rally started for the top of the order.

Leadoff batter Gunnar Henderson cashed in one run with a ground single to center for his 35th RBI. Center fielder Michael Siani threw late to third and Henderson advanced to second on the play.

That would prove big too, as Ryan O’Hearn, batting next with the infield playing back, hit a routine grounder to second and a run scored for a 2-0 lead. Then Anthony Santander’s line single to left made it a 3-0 game.

After their 7-for-68 batting start to the series, the Orioles went for 3-for-7 to cash in. All three runs were unearned.

But St. Louis would gain the lead off lefty reliever Cole Irvin, who had an ERA of 0.65 his previous five games, four of them starts. Lars Nootbaar’s RBI single in the fifth scored Masyn Winn, who had doubled, and it was 3-1.

A crazy play led to three runs an inning later to put St. Louis ahead 4-3.

With two men on – one on a rare error by Gunnar Henderson at short, his fourth of the season – Brendan Donovan lined a two-run double to right-center. But on the throw home, Donovan broke for third. Catcher James McCann threw wildly past third and Donovan scored.

An inning later Winn hit his second homer to extend the Cardinals' lead to 5-3.

Addressing the end of the Orioles' sweepless regular season streak, Hays said: "To go that long without losing three or four in a row, just a tip of the cap to how resilient this group is."

So the Orioles are swept - scoring eight runs over three games here - and now go limping into Chicago to face a White Sox team that is 15-34 heading into tonight’s game, but is 12-12 its past 24 games.

In the series opener there on Thursday night, righty Grayson Rodriguez (4-1, 3.15 ERA) will face right-hander Mike Clevinger (0-2, 5.56 ERA).

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